Posts Tagged ‘1990s games’

I’m QUAKING in my boots (I don’t have any boots)

5 July, 2016
Quake

“Hi, do you have a moment? Don’t worry, I’m not selling anything!”

One of the great things about the current generation of videogames and videogaming is the way that older stuff has been re-embraced. Not just the aesthetics, where we’ve seen “8-bit” graphics and sound become fashionable with the explosion of independent titles; but also the games themselves. “Abandoned” commercial software of the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s has been dusted off, tweaked and fixed for modern platforms and put back on sale again, largely thanks to digital distributors like GOG and Steam who’ve managed to snap-up the rights to a lot of previously abandoned software which was designed for DOS-based 486 PCs and which previously needed a hat with a fucking propellor on the top at the very least to even think about getting it to work on your complex emulator of choice.

And with that has come something more unexpected – updates and expansions for software that’s over a decade old but which has a diehard as well as a growing, new, fanbase. Not just the HD “remixes” of old software (the success of which has been kind of mixed) but whole new content. Notable examples include new expansions for Age Of Empires II, Balder’s Gate (complete with neckbeard/GG-infuriating characters and dialogue, none of which would have actually bothered anyone when BG was originally released, ironically enough) and, now, a brand new official episode for Quake (from the people who brought us the new Wolfenstein game). Yes, that Quake. The one that came out in 1996. In fact it was actually released to mark the game’s (gulp weisold!) 20th anniversary.

Here’s a link to the RPS article about the new episode which contains a direct link to the download. Happy, erm, “quaking” (‘what?!’).

Umlauts

29 December, 2015
Motorhead2

“After I enjoy this *root beer*, I’ll have some *talcum powder*”

Like everyone with a tiny bit of rock and roll in their soul (and in my case that is a bit tiny, unfortunately), I was sad to hear about the death of Lemmy out of Hawkwind and Motörhead who I think most of us had assumed was, like Keith Richards, indestructable.

Keeping things on-topic for this blog, the Facebook post that announced his death said that he died playing his favourite videogame and someone noted that Lemmy appeared in “at least one game” – Brütal Legend. But there was another…

Incredibly, in 1992, Virgin Games published a licensed Motörhead videogame for the Amiga. The player controls Lemmy himself who has to beat the shit out of rave and country music fans whilst drinking neat whisky and gaining powers. I am not making this up. Seek it out, dig UAE out and play it, the man himself would approve.

Sab95

2 December, 2015

There’s been a bit of a buzz around the fact that Clive Townsend is

Sab95

Ninja kicks the shit out of, erm, some kind of troll thing (it’s the ’90s!)

working on an update to his classic 1980s platform-and-stealth ninja games Saboteur and Saboteur 2 (the latter featuring a female protagonist long before it made neckbeards and that Tory blogger with ice-cream coloured hair all angry on Twitter). Doing a spot of online googling about this lead to me discover that there was an unofficial Saboteur game released for DOS-based PCs in the 1990s. No really, it has a site and everything.

I’m intrigued, I’m going to play it and then, in a few days, I’m going to report back. It’ll probably be shite. The knocked-off Mortal Kombat stuff is already making me roll my eyes. But it also might be brilliant because, hey, you never know.

Meanwhile, information on Townsend’s official update can be found a his website here.

 

Does the “D” stand for “Derek”?

22 July, 2015

“In the footure, we all wear red jumpsuits with grey patches”

A friend of mine recently punted me in the direction of indie cyberpunk-ish isometric game DataJack which is very nice and all that and I’ll maybe write something about it here in the next month or so.

But what I wanted to talk about was what DataJack immediately reminded me of – the largely-forgotten 1991 arcade-adventure D-Generation.

When it came out, D-Generation won plenty of praise from the press for its gameplay but was criticised for its visuals which had an outdated, even amateurish look to them. This was a couple of years after Shadow of the Beast and only two years before Doom; 16-bit software was expected to look impressive. D-Generation didn’t and for that reason largely passed an awful lot of people by.

But discovering it again, what’s notable apart from the still-brilliant gameplay (a mixture of action and puzzle-solving) and unintrusive, Bioshock-style plot development (found largely via messages and through conversations rather than cut-scenes and exposition) is how little its “primitive” looks actually matter today and, in fact, how in the modern era of deliberately retro and visually spartan indie software D-Generation weirdly now looks more modern than a lot of its contemporaries.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any digital distribution retailers selling this game, so I can only link to its Abandonia page here. Note that the PC version doesn’t seem to have any joystick support, so playing or emulating the Amiga or ST version may be the best option for most people; there’s also a CD32 version if you can be bothered hunting-down/emulating that.

Ten Pints

29 September, 2014
A nice touch in all the Beast games is the mixture of olde world fantasy and sci-fi aesthetics.

A nice touch in all the Beast games is the mixture of olde world fantasy and sci-fi aesthetics.

Oh, Shadow of the Beast. You’ll read on half a dozen videogame nostalgia sites that it’s a “classic” and although I think that it’s fair to say it’s remembered fondly it’s really got nothing to do with the games in the series being good.

Shadow of the Beast and to some extent its two sequels is an example from an earlier era of the phenomenon of the “shop-front game”; the title that was left running on a monitor in attract mode in the window in order to get people to come into the shop and buy the game and, crucially, the machine it was running on (in this case the then-new Commodore Amiga). Beast, even to this day, looks and sounds gorgeous. It’s just a shame that the gameplay is so utterly flawed.

The first title in the series is a game that wanted to be an epic arcade-adventure set in a huge, open fantasy world; that’s very much what it’s clearly trying to be when you start playing. The player character can run either left or right and explore the environment the player has found themselves in which is full of forests, monsters and traps. After a bit of experimentation, though, it becomes clear that there’s only one way you can go in order to get anywhere in the game. And once you get there you’ll quickly discover that it’s like this all the way – run around, find the right swtich, find the right key, keep progressing until you reach a locked door because you didn’t get a key or flip a switch you missed half an hour ago. Gah!

Shadow of the Beast 2 upped the Arcade Adventure aspect and again presented an apparent open world whilst being just as linear and about twice as difficult as its predecessor. The sequel added much more interaction and plot to proceedings and was notorious for featuring a few puzzles which, if not completed correctly, left the player stranded necessitating a restart.

Shadow of the Beast 3 is considered by many to be the best of the bunch introducing levels (which can be played in any order) rather than a fraudulent open world, lives rather than a single energy bar, and some sometimes genuinely brilliant puzzles – more numerous and better than those in Beast 2 – which bring to mind those which appear in the indie arcade adventure LIMBO. Unfortunately, though, unlike LIMBO which allows checkpoints and endless lives to give the player multiple chances to experiment and complete puzzles, messing the puzzle up in Beast 3 means losing a life before you can try it again. Harsh.

So, a pretty and iconic series of videogames, but at the same time bloody infuriating and badly designed. Does this still sound appealing? Then you’ll be delighted to know that a number of enthusiasts are working on porting Shadow of the Beast and its sequels to modern platforms. They’ve attempted to improve gameplay with continues and the ability to save (the latter of which isn’t properly implemented); and only the first game is actually properly playable and completable. Regardless of their legendary flaws there remains something attractive about the Beast games and I’ll admit to sitting down and playing them again for a while and feeling the need to return. Maybe, despite their obviously flawed design, these were games that really do have that special “something” that makes people come back, even 25 years later. Or maybe, y’know, it’s just nostalgia and we all need someone to say “Dad, this game’s rubbish.”

(And if you don’t understand the title of this post then I’m now going to tell you. Ner.)

Prehistorik 2

23 June, 2014
Looks better, isn't better

Looks better, isn’t better

Okay, then, so Prehistorik has a sequel, the name of which you can probably guess, and I decided to try it out and see if it was any better than the original ‘Rik which was, frankly, bloody disappointing despite my memory lying to me about it being quite good.

And the sad, short, answer is no, it’s not really.

There’s a nice touch at the start where the program prints up the year and expresses astoundment that the game is still being run and played. Unfortunately, this is the most surprising and likeable thing about the whole package.

There’s clearly been an attempt to improve on the previous game in terms of gameplay. When you load the game up it has a very console feel, from the title screen to the Ghosts n Goblins-style “game map” at the start to the much improved graphics. What’s weird though is, despite all this, it still feels horrendously clunky and 8-bit. The scrolling is still jerky and “screen by screen” rather than continuous and the control feels loose and imprecise. It’s been given a new lick of paint but for all the good looks it feels like a very old game engine running underneath some 1990s graphical sheen. And even without those problems it’s all a bit boring and uninspiring: Rik has to collect food again and enter caves, jump over spikes, twat monsters with his club. You get the idea. There are also some clumsy “features” which don’t quite work like the rubbish “lights off” pick-up which changes the colours so it appears dusk has fallen (until a “lights on” icon is collected) and the odd decision to make level codes a part of the background rather than appearing once a level is completed meaning the player is expected to take notes whilst playing. When Rik gets hit by an enemy he often shouts out what sounds like “Why?!”, it’s practically the tagline to this game. There’s really nothing to recommend Prehistorik 2 other than as a curio. A shame.

Faintly interesting thing about Prehistorik 2: it was released on unusual formats. As well as DOS-based PC (rather than Amiga and Atari ST) it was also published for the Amstrad CPC and CPC + (but not Commodore 64 or, again, Amiga or ST). There’s also a heavily-redesigned SNES port (where, confusingly, the caveman isn’t called Rik, even though the name is still used in the punning re-title of Prehistorik Man). It’s still pretty rubbish, though, despite feeling much slicker, suggesting that there was never much milage in this sequel.

Prehistorik

4 May, 2014

Oh dear, how the memory can play tricks on you, and the recent memory at that. I thought I’d have a go of Prehistorik on the Amiga (originally available in Atari ST flavour) because, in my recollections at least, it was a fun platform game with a slightly-novel premise and good graphics.

You can kind of see where this is going, but rather than cut to the chase I think a little background is worthwhile. I get a weird Proustian rush from Prehistorik anyway because it came out around the time I first got an Amiga and it was reviewed in one of the first (perhaps even the first) copies of the (frankly terrible) Amiga magazine Amiga Action I bought before I had the sense to defect to the “better but not Amiga Power” Amiga Format. I seem to recall it got a reasonably good review in said rag (not all that difficult from what I remember) and, years and years later, I actually got to play it and “quite enjoyed it”. You run around a scrolling level bonking monsters on the head, collecting power ups and building up a “food” bar before completing the level and taking on some seriously massive boss monsters before progressing.

Image

Rather than go to the shops like any decent (prehistoric) human being, Rik thieves from peoples’ caves.

Prehistorik was actually just one of a small rash of “caveman” games that came out in the 1990s. Chuck Rock (featuring a villain who was the near namesake of, erm, Gary Glitter) is probably the best known one but there was also Ugh! (a clone of Space Taxi), the indie title Trog, BC Kid and the bizarre “mash-up” Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja.

Looking at a still screen of Prehistorik it’s easy to see where the warm fuzzy memories come from. It looks colourful and attractive with nice, chunky, cartoon graphics. The end of level bosses in particular look absolutely smashing. Amiga and Atari ST games of the time generally looked a bit “flat” compared to the arcade-quality Manga-like pixel art the Japanese artists were creating for the console games but now, with everything from the era frankly looking inevitably dated, the European stuff has a certain charm. It’s a good-looking game, I’ll give it that. The sound is good too with a jolly, upbeat tune playing throughout and nice sampled sound effects (it’s particularly nice to hear both at the same time, something that was rare with the Amiga for reasons I’ve never quite fathomed but which I suspect involved Amiga musicians always insisting on using all four sound channels when composing leaving the game with a “my music or his sound effects!” stand-off for the player to resolve).

The problem is when you start playing. For a start, it “scrolls” in name only. It’s actually closer to a flick-screen title with the screen quickly jumping from right to left or vice versa as the player reaches the edge of the screen. This may be in large part because it was originally written for the popular but limiting Atari ST programming package STOS. ST ports were notorious for not taking advantage of the Amiga hardware anyway so you can just imagine how much clunkier one written using a BASIC package feels. Another problem is the collision detection which is really shonky with Rik constantly being “hit” by obstacles you could swear he’d avoided. But on top of these problems is the overall feel of the game, it’s probably a legacy of STOS but it feels very… 8-bit. There’s a lack of smoothness to gameplay with the absence of proper scrolling and some really irritating problems such as the aforementioned poor collision detection, the lack of precision in jumping and moving (Rik feels like he’s moving about eight pixels a time) and some shonky design (for example the monkeys throwing coconuts who always throw again once the first one hits rather than at set time delays meaning when Rik gets close he’s greeted by a flurry of missiles).

Image

“I’m gonna knock you out, Rik said knock you out”

Unfortunately, and I hate to say this, but Prehistorik just plain plays poorly; it feels amateurish and unpolished, something that was unfortunately a lot more common around 1991. Considering that at the time there were so many platform games for the 16 bits with half-decent scrolling and tight control the clunkiness of Prehistorik feels unforgivable. Still, at least they got the opportunity to put things right with Prehistorik 2 a couple of years later, at least let’s hope they will because that’s the next game I’m going to play for a couple of hours and then grumble about here.

Midwinter Remake?

14 January, 2014

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a good festive period!Image

Something that caught my attention this month was a report about the possibility of the late Mike Singleton’s classic open-world arcade-adventure-cum-strategy game Midwinter being rewritten for modern systems.

It strikes me as a good choice for updating anyway because it was always a game punching a little above the weight of the 16-bit systems it was developed for (erm, if that’s not rather a mangled metaphore). For those who don’t know, Midwinter sees the player in the role of a lone freedom fighter tasked with exploring the land of Midwinter (itself the creation of some kind of environmental catastrophe do-da or something) recruiting people to help him fight the standard evil dictatorship and ultimately bring peace and some semblance of freedom to the frozen country.

What makes it unusual, though, and so likely to be a bit more than just “Skyrim but with guns and gilders” is that gameplay is a mixture of real time and turn-based. The player recruits allies to their cause, performs all of their actions over a certain period of time and then takes control of the allied characters over the same period of time. This would add a whole new layer of strategy whereby, for example, the player moves a sharpshooter into position over a ridge, then leaves them there with the order to fire on enemies before taking control of another character who needs to cross dangerous terrain: now protected by covering fire from the previously-placed character.

Will it be like this? Will we even see it? Who knows, it’s being funded through Kickstarter which worries me as Kickstarter favours the very well known and I worry Midwinter is a little obscure (even Dizzy came a cropper recently). We can but hope, though (and contribute, of course).

You can read a whole lot more about the remake here.

M.I.A. Okay!

29 December, 2013

Image

Go, go, go bit of putty!

Happy Christmas! I hope you all “had” a good “one”. I was in Northhumberland, experiencing a mixture of beautiful cloudless skies with frosty mornings and terrifying, window-rattling storms.

Anyway, it being the season of goodwill and all that, System 3 have finally released the Amiga version of Putty Squad to the world at large, a mere 20 years after it was given glowing reviews in the gaming press and then vanished without a trace save for a couple of coverdisk demos. A spot of playing reveals it’s very similar to the released SNES version, although with controls designed around the one-button joystick most Amigas used in a way that works surprisingly well. There are a few downers such as the fingers pointing to the exit and (especially) the passwords not appearing onscreen for all that long. Keep a pen handy or, if emulating, be prepared to hit whatever pauses the emulation whilst you scribble the codes down. But apart from that, a quick play reminds you that this game is generally as brilliant as it’s ever been and well worth a shot when it’s going for nowt.

Putty Squad works on any AGA capable Amiga and comes on two disks. The ADF images (which can be ported to real disks – instructions provided in the download) are available from System 3 here. Happy, erm, puttying.

Flashback to Flashback?

26 January, 2013
Image

Welcome back to the jungle!

Well, this is an interesting development. It looks like someone has decided to remake the classic ’90s arcade adventure Flashback for modern platforms. And when I say “remake” I mean “remake”, not “re-imagining”. It’ll have posh new graphics but the gameplay and levels are, apparently, going to be the same.

It’s been such a long time since I played Flashback for anything more than about ten minutes that I can’t remember whether it stands up well or now feels very dated but its reputation and my memories suggest that this might well transfer quite well to modern HD graphics and I’m always happy to see something that might attract people to the joys of 2D gaming.

There really is precious little to go on at the moment so why not gawp at the picture off in the top-right there? Pretty.